4 Dietary Essentials for the Vegetarian Runner

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To be a healthy, successful runner, there are certain things in regard to nutrition that you should consider since dietary choices can matter. It might be a bit hard, for instance, to run thirty miles a week if you only eat cheesecake and drink strawberry milk all the time! Your body isn’t getting a good nutritional base, and the truth is that to some extent, we truly are what we eat. We shouldn’t expect to be at our best health levels if we aren’t feeding ourselves right for average day-to-day activities, let alone if we’re doing something as energetic as running regularly.

And, believe it or not, a vegetarian lifestyle can be a wonderful way to make sure you’re fit and healthy enough to run at your best. Need evidence? Here’s some: History suggests that Roman gladiators were often vegetarians!  That’s right. The famous arena athletes, according to findings, were primarily vegetarians!

You might wonder how a vegetarian lifestyle could benefit someone as physically active as a runner (or a gladiator) since a lack of meat in your diet could lead to you getting certain vitamins and minerals in smaller amounts. But if you manage to get the nutrients that can come from meat through other means, you could find yourself in better health and running shape than you experienced when you were gaining those nutrients from meat. Examples of these health advantages are a higher level of carbohydrates and vitamin C, and also weight loss that could make your run easier and less injury-filled. In essence, if you manage to get your nutrients from other sources, a vegetarian diet could make you a healthier and more successful runner!

So, what are those nutrients, and how exactly can we attain them outside of eating meats? Here are a handful for your reference! Check to make sure, if you choose to go vegetarian, that you’re catering to each and every one of these nutritional needs before and after your run!

Protein

Protein, while it’s often linked to meat, is not an exclusive thing to a carnivore’s meal plan. In truth, a number of non-meat foods will give you some amount of protein, though that amount might be lower than what’s found in meat products. This detail leaves you with two very important things to consider.

First, although it’s possible, you might not get the amount of protein that some recommend for athletes after leaving meat behind. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing though! If you recall from an earlier post about drinking water, sometimes recommendations can be lenient, and you have to take into consideration what you can and can’t handle for your own personal well-being. So if you want to embrace a vegetarian lifestyle as a runner, you might have to shake off the notion of numbers that don’t sensibly fit into your dietary plans.

Second, even though you might not get the highest recommended amount of protein through your dietary choices, it’s still important to take your protein needs seriously. To make sure you’re getting enough, add in something that includes protein every time you settle down for a serious meal.

Good sources of protein outside of meat include nuts, beans, dairy, and tofu. Be sure to vary your protein-adding foods to keep your meals interesting, and consider other dietary decisions while deciding on your sources. For instance, a vegan might not want dairy products, so looking for alternatives to that protein option would be understandable.

Iron

Iron is a mineral that comes in fairly handy for activities that are as high-energy as running since it helps with making sure your oxygen is circulating enough and efficiently. If your oxygen isn’t flowing as it should, you might be doomed for a dangerous and unpleasant run! There is, however, a catch to this one because while iron can be found outside of meat, it’s easiest to process by your body *from* meat.

Still, there are tricks to getting iron on your plate for mealtimes. Specifically, you can choose dietary options like legumes and potatoes to give you some type of iron, and using a cast iron skillet to prepare your meals has also been noted as a means to get an extra bit of iron in your diet.  As odd as it might sound, the skillet itself can reportedly add a bit of iron to your meal during the cooking process. Other foods like vegetables, dried fruits, and certain cereals are also sources of non-meat iron.

Calcium

You don’t need to be a nutritionist to know that calcium is important for bone health, and you don’t have to think too deeply to see the connection between bone health and running. If your bones aren’t in good shape, you might be more prone to injuries during something as strenuous as running. If you’re committed to a vegetarian lifestyle, make sure you’re getting a sufficient amount of calcium in your diet to keep your bones strong enough to run injury-free!

The manner in which you get this mineral might depend on what particular dietary tactic you’re using. Dairy products can be wonderful sources of calcium, but if you’re unwilling to use them, knowing that fact doesn’t do you a great deal of good in regard to maintaining a healthy calcium intake. Don’t fear though because, even if you do have a vegan dietary plan, there are foods that can provide calcium, like broccoli, soybeans, strawberries, kiwi, and tofu. By making sure you’re adding these foods to your regular meal plans, you could build stronger bones for better runs!

Zinc

Zinc is important to help your immune system stay at its best shape, which is essential for runners and anyone else involved with a high-energy exercise regimen. Why? For one thing, staying healthy can enhance the likelihood of you heading out for your morning runs in the first place. It’s easy to assume that if you have a severe stomach bug, after all, that you won’t feel like running! In addition to this detail, zinc has also been linked to muscle health, which is another logical detail to consider when you’re running. Like with your bones, the healthier your muscles are, the better odds you have of experiencing a strong and safe run.

For those reasons, be sure not to neglect zinc, even if you’re taking meat out of your dietary plans. In fact, make sure those zinc additions to your meals and snacks are every day since your body doesn’t store it the way it might other nutrients. To get the most out of your zinc then, consume the proper amounts on a daily basis.

What foods should you turn to get that zinc? Beyond meat, you can look toward nuts, whole grains, and legumes.

In the end

There are a number of nutritional concepts to consider for a vegetarian lifestyle, so if you mean to embrace the dietary possibility, be sure brush up on the vitamins and minerals that you should keep in your day-to-day food choices. Beyond what I’ve listed here, things like magnesium and even calories can be worth researching to make sure that what could be a healthy choice for you actually is a healthy choice with more natural ingredients!  Check out vegetarian recipes and meal plans for your meal plans, and match them up with all of your needed nutrients!

 

References

Applegate, L. (2001, October 4). Dig These Minerals. Runner’s World. Retrieved from http://www.runnersworld.com/nutrition/minerals-for-runners

Bastone, K. (2007, November 13). Key Nutrients Every Runner Needs. Runner’s World. Retrieved from http://www.runnersworld.com/nutrition/nutrients-every-runner-needscom

Cespedes, A. (2015, December 26). Vegetarian Diet Plan for Runners. Live Strong. Retrieved from http://www.livestrong.com/article/444757-vegetarian-diet-plan-for-runners/

Colub, J.S. (2016, April 17). The Vegetarian Marathoner’s Meal Plan. Runner’s World. Retrieved from http://www.runnersworldonline.com.au/vegetarian/

Coughlan, S. (2014, October 22). Gladiators were ‘mostly vegetarian.’ BBC News. Retrieved from http://www.bbc.com/news/education-29723384

Davis, J. (n.d.). Do You Absorb More Iron Cooking in a Cast Iron Pan? Runners Connect. Retrieved from https://runnersconnect.net/cast-iron-pan-iron/

Frazier, M. (n.d.). The Vegetarian Athlete Diet. No Meat Athlete. Retrieved from  http://www.nomeatathlete.com/vegetarian-diet-athletes/

Gaudette, J. (n.d.). Iron Deficiency in Runners. Runners Connect. Retrieved from https://runnersconnect.net/iron-deficiency-in-runners/

High-Protein Diet for Weight Loss. (2016). WebMD. Retrieved from http://www.webmd.com/diet/guide/high-protein-diet-weight-loss

Housefield, A. (n.d.). Nutritional Priorities as a Vegetarian Runner. Runner’s Connect. Retrieved from https://runnersconnect.net/4-nutritional-priorities-as-a-vegetarian-runner/

How to Be a Healthy Vegetarian. (2015, December 10). Center for Young Women’s Health. Retrieved from http://youngwomenshealth.org/2013/12/05/vegetarian-diet/

Willett, B. (n.d.). Zinc for Runners. AZ Central. Retrieved from http://healthyliving.azcentral.com/zinc-runners-4351.html

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